Diabetic Retinopathy and other Vision Problems on the Rise

Vision problems are on the rise in the US, according to a report released last week by Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute. Many of these eye diseases can lead to vision loss. One of the most significant rises was seen in diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy has increased 89 percent over the last 12 years. This rise is largely attributable to higher rates of diabetes. This eye disease can cause blindness.

Other vision problems which have seen a rise since 2000 include:

  • Macular degeneration, by 25 percent
  • Glaucoma, by 22 percent
  • Cataracts, by 19 percent

The rises in age-related eye diseases may be explained by a large generation who is now aging. Both cataracts and age-related macular degeneration are typically associated with advanced age.

If you are concerned about your eye health, you can take steps to prevent vision problems. Schedule annual eye exams and physicals to prevent health problems and catch them early. You should also ask your eye doctor about your ocular health, including finding out what vision problems you are at risk for and what steps you can take to prevent that risk.

If you want to see the original Prevent Blindness America report, it can be viewed at www.visionproblemsus.org.

To learn more about diabetic retinopathy and other vision problems, please find an eye doctor in your area.

Prosthetic Retina Could Offer Hope for Those with Macular Degeneration

A prosthetic retina being developed in an international partnership between Stanford University and Scotland’s University of Strathclyde may help restore sight to those who suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), one of the leading causes of blindness.

AMD is the primary cause of blindness among Americans over age 65. Nearly 2 million Americans are thought to suffer from AMD, and that figure is expected to skyrocket as Baby Boomers grow older and begin to experience age-related vision problems.

The prosthetic retina being created by researchers at Stanford and the University of Strathclyde would work by providing electric stimulus to the neurons in the retina that are otherwise not damaged by AMD. The prosthetic retina is made of a thin layer of silicon that converts pulsed, nearly infrared light into electrical current intended to stimulate the retina and generate visual perception.

The device employs video goggles to deliver the stimulus and project the images onto the eye. The prosthetic retina delivered promising results in initial lab tests, the effects of which were published in the journal Nature Photonics.

Regular screenings for AMD are recommended beginning after age 45. For more information about the symptoms of AMD, please see How to Recognize the Early Signs of Macular Degeneration.

To learn more about AMD or to locate an ophthalmologist in your area, please contact Eyes.com.

Research Could Herald Therapy for Form of Macular Degeneration

Researchers are hopeful that a breakthrough in the understanding of geographic atrophy (GA)—also known as the so-called “dry” form of age-related macular degeneration—could lead to potential therapy for the otherwise untreatable condition that is a leading cause of blindness.

GA results in the death of retinal pigment epithelium cells. Research led by Dr. Jayakrishna Ambati at the University of Kentucky revealed that human eyes with geographic atrophy also have a deficiency of a particular enzyme (DICER1), which causes toxic molecules to build up in the retinal pigment epithelium. The retinal pigment epithelium is the pigmented layer of cells outside the retina that provides nourishment to the visual cells.

When the toxic molecules accumulate, they trigger a response that causes the retinal pigment epithelium cells to die and vision loss to accelerate. However, the University of Kentucky research demonstrated that blocking the factors that lead to the accumulation of toxic molecules can prevent retinal degeneration in many situations.

Researchers believe this could lead to treatment for geographic atrophy, and they are currently working to refine therapies.

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness for Americans over age 65. Although there is no cure for age-related macular degeneration, there are some treatments that can slow its progression and steps you can take to prevent macular degeneration.

If you would like to learn more about age-related macular degeneration prevention and treatment, please contact eyes.com to locate an experienced ophthalmologist near you.

Smoking and Eye Damage

The dangers smoking pose to your health have been well-documented. However, the link between smoking and eye damage is rarely included in conversations with the more serious consequences such as lung cancer. But by smoking regularly, you dramatically increase your risk of several serious eye conditions.

When you inhale cigarette smoke, you are bringing roughly 4,000 chemicals into your bloodstream. Many of these chemicals are harmful to the health of your eyes and can potentially damage your macula. As a result, smokers face an increased risk of macular degeneration, a condition which may lead to blindness.

In fact, smoking is one of the leading risk factors associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD). A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology revealed that approximately 25% of AMD patients who suffered vision loss were also smokers. Additionally, the study found that people who live in the same house with a smoker for a prolonged period of time are twice as likely to develop AMD.

Another vision condition commonly associated with smoking is cataracts. Studies have shown that people who smoke 15 or more cigarettes per day may be as much as three times more likely develop cataracts than nonsmokers. Smoking increases the oxidative stress in your eye’s natural lens, which ultimately increases the likelihood of cataract formation.

These eye health issues are fairly serious. One of the easiest ways to lower your risk of these conditions is to quit smoking.

Please contact eyes.com today to find an experienced eye doctor in your area.

Treating Macular Degeneration

There are several approaches that can be used to treat age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Your ophthalmologist will work closely with you to help you determine the solution most suited to meet your needs. Understanding first how AMD is treated can help you better understand what to expect during your appointment.

How AMD is Treated

Common treatments for AMD include:

  • Laser treatments to seal leaky blood vessels
  • Injections such as Lucentis and Macugen
  • Combinations therapy such as Visudyne/PDT

Injections may be made in the eye or through the arm. With combination therapy, injections are received in the arm and non-thermal laser treatment is applied to the eye.

Your treatment may also include lifestyle changes. Certain nutrients have been shown to slow the progression of AMD. Your ophthalmologist may recommend you supplement your diet or change your eating habits to include a wider variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. In addition, quitting smoking can slow the progression of AMD. Your ophthalmologist will discuss all of this with you during your initial consultation.

If you are suffering from the symptoms of AMD, please use the doctor locator at eyes.com to find an experienced ophthalmologist in your area to discuss your treatment options today.

Sunglasses in the Winter?

Many people associate sunglasses with summer. Time spent outdoors when the sun is closer seems like an ideal time to wear sunglasses to reduce glare, strain, and other discomforts. While it is important to wear sunglasses in the summertime, preventing sun damaged eyes requires diligent use of sunglasses in the winter as well.

UV Rays

In the summer, your eyes are affected by UV rays from above. In the winter, due to glare off of snow, your eyes are affected by UV rays both from above and below. In fact, it is highly possible that up to 85 percent of the UV rays hitting your eyes come from below in the winter. This makes it particularly important for outdoor enthusiasts to wear a high quality and protective pair of sunglasses at all time.

Unprotected eye can get sunburnt. Not only is this painful, it can lead to irreversible damage. In addition, sun damage has been linked to age related eye disorders such as macular degeneration and cataracts, making it important for your long-term visual health that you wear sunglasses at all times when you are outdoors.

If you would like more information on keeping your eyes as healthy as possible, please use the doctor locator at eyes.com to find an experienced ophthalmologist in your area today.

Eylea the Latest Drug Available for AMD

Eylea is the latest in a series of anti-VEGF drugs from the Retina Group of New York. Eylea is for patients who have the wet form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Two clinical trials involving over 2400 adults show that Eylea is as effective as Lucentis in maintaining vision in 95% of patients. Thirty percent of patients had improved vision when taking the drug. The FDA approved Eylea on November 11, and is available to patients by the Retina Group of New York in Hicksville and Hauppauge, New York.

According to the chairman of the Retina Group of New York, Eylea offers patients with AMD the same benefits as the highly effective Lucentis, but with half the treatments at a lower cost. Patients will need to be treated every two months instead of every month, like the do with Lucentis and Avastin. This may be better for patients, since some eye specialists allegedly do not stick to the monthly treatment of the other drugs to make them effective.

AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in people over the age of 65. Wet form AMD is the result of blood vessels growing beneath the retina and then leaking. This can cause irreversible vision loss and blindness if not treated. Symptoms take the form of trouble reading, seeing straight-on, and looking at detailed work. Anti-VEGF drugs, like Eylea, Lucentis, and Avastin, can stabilize the vision in patients, although AMD cannot be reversed.

If you have any questions about AMD, please find an experienced eye doctor through eyes.com today.